A late soldier’s RAF belt buckle has been stolen from his grave, sparking a social media campaign to find it.
Senior aircraftman Ryan Tomlin, 21, was killed in action on February 13, 2012, when he came under fire while serving in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
The former Astley Cooper School student was flown home and buried in Woodwells Cemetery on the outskirts of the town after a funeral service at St Mary’s Church in the High Street.
But now his grave has been targeted by thieves, who stole a regimental belt buckle from his resting place on Wednesday last week (March 23).
The incident has prompted a post on Facebook, which has been shared more than 5,000 times in a bid to make the buckle ‘too hot to handle’.
Some commenters branded the act ‘disgusting’, ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shameful’.
At the time of his death, Ryan was providing protection for a patrol that was building links with the local community in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province when they came under fire.
Ryan was working with fellow 2 Squadron sniper Neil Hughes on February 13, 2012.
The talented marksman was providing cover for an ‘influence patrol’ led by Flight Lieutenant Dave Martin that was visiting different compounds in the northern Nad Ali district. It was the airman’s second tour of Afghanistan.
Ryan and Neil had just moved away from a Jackal - a type of armoured vehicle - that they had been using to get a good vantage point when they came under machine gun fire.
Ryan, who was shot as he was making his way back to the Jackal, was attended to by a medic straight away and flown to a field hospital by helicopter but could not be saved.
At the time, his family paid tribute, saying: “Ryan loved and lived life to the full. He gave his life at a very young age doing the job he loved.
“Ryan will be sorely missed by his family and friends and everyone who loved him. Ryan will be forever young and never forgotten. Our true hero and shining star.”